(… with apologies to Héctor Garcia, http://www.ageekinjapan.com/)
Tuesday 11th – Arrival
Well, KLM turned out to be a good choice to fly to Tokyo. Nice easy connection through Schiphol, Japanese and Western food on the plane to get us in the mood, and the Chief Steward getting us off to a good start by addressing us as ‘Mr and Mrs Kavanagh’ before immediately rolling his eyes and apologising profusely :-).
On arrival in Tokyo airport, we headed to get our Japan Rail passes (JR Pass), and then did what everyone going to Japan should do – got coffee at Starbucks.
The Narita Express was our first introduction to Japanese trains – fast, quiet, bang on time.
Not sure about introducing James to the concept of five star hotels though – something tells me he won’t be settling for anything less in future… (but wait until you see our Fuji hotel in the second part…!). The Park Hyatt in Tokyo has reception on the 41st floor of the second of 3 towers, then swimming pool and gym on floor 47, and a bar on the 51st. We were on floor 49.
After a few hours sleep we decided it was time to head out and find some food.
Shinjuku is reminiscent of Manhattan or the City of London, but somehow shinier and more futuristic looking. But it has a great little district near the station with lots of small restaurants, bars, Karaoke clubs and arcades. We found this restaurant (name not known, apart from the sign in Kanji!) and it turned out to be a winner – set meal with a selection of protein (fish, meat), rice, Miso soup and pickled vegetables.
And so to bed.
Wednesday 12th – Shibuya
We had a good lie-in to stave off the jetlag, then headed for one of the most famous crossroads in Tokyo – Shibuya Crossing, also known as “The Scramble”. Just as crazy in real life as in the movies, it’s an intense area that leaves you thinking ‘yup, I’m definitely in Japan now!’. Went browsing for comic books (manga) in the streets around Shibuya, it’s also a very busy nightlife spot as seen in the gallery of pictures below. Found a great exhibition of cat photographs (cats from Aomori Tsugaru, photographed by Mitsuaki Iwago) in a nearby shopping centre.
Dinner: very traditional Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku, manage to get a menu with some English, dinner of Seared Chicken with Yuzu Pepper sauce, salad and rice – very good. James not so convinced by the chicken, too much dark meat for his liking.
I went to a local corner bar (‘izakaya’) and got chatting to a couple of Americans from Minnesota – turns out they were part of a ukelele band visiting on an exchange trip. We shared similar views on the menu at the bar…
Thursday 13th – Pokémon, TGI’s and Lego
Headed to Ikebukuro station to visit the Pokémon Mega Centre. As you can see from the gallery below, I think we’ve reached peak Pikachu…. then we bumped into my newfound ukelele playing friends from the night before!
Then hunger got the better of us and as luck would have it there was a TGI Friday’s over the road for lunch.
On to Ginza to try and find a Lego store – that no longer existed – so we then went on to Odaiba Island for the Lego Discovery Centre shop. Odaiba is an artificial island with lots of shops and attractions, it also has the Fuji TV building – amazing bit of architecture.